FMQs: Douglas Ross and Humza Yousaf clash over 'extreme' High Protected Marine Areas plan
Humza Yousaf must "do the right thing" and scrap "extreme" fishing ban plans opposed by coastal communities, Douglas Ross has said.
The Scottish Conservative leader told First Minister's Questions that SNP backbenchers are amongst those opposed to plans to set up Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) around Scotland.
The policy is backed by the Scottish Greens and aims to boost biodiversity. Yousaf said these will not be imposed "on any community that vehemently opposes" them.
However, Ross said Yousaf "should be worried about the response from his own backbenches" after six SNP MSPs rebelled in a vote on the matter.
Former ministers Kate Forbes, Fergus Ewing, Alasdair Allan voted against the Scottish Government, while Ash Regan, Annabelle Ewing and Christine Grahame abstained.
Referring to the Gender Recognition Reform Bill vote in which nine SNP MSPs rebelled against the Sturgeon administration, Ross said: "It took Nicola Sturgeon eight years to have our first major rebellion within the SNP ranks; it's taken Humza Yousaf less than eight weeks to achieve the same.
"He's clearly losing his grip on his party because he insists on pursuing these extreme policies that are opposed by the very communities he wants to impose them on. These reckless plans would ban fishing across much of our sea. It will put thousands of jobs at risk, and it would devastate coastal, rural and fishing areas.
"Coastal communities, the fishing sector, and even Humza Yousaf's own MSPs have all called for the SNP Government to ditch their anti-fishing plans, yet the first minister is ploughing ahead regardless. So instead of arrogantly dismissing the many valid concerns as he's done so far, will he now do the right thing and scrap these plans?"
Yousaf said extensive consultation is taking place and HPMAs will not be forced upon communities.
The first minister said the introduction of HPMAs was a Tory manifesto pledge and accused Ross' party of "flip-flopping" on the issue.
Accusing Ross of having "lost faith in his own political party" and sending "the entire Easter recess urging his supporters to vote for the Scottish Labour party", he went on: "For Douglas Ross to stand there and talk about losing grip of a party when he has been leader, the Conservatives have had the longest attempted coup in Scottish political history. Why doesn't Jamie Greene or Liam Kerr just stand up and put Douglas Ross out of his misery?"